This month, Trampy and the Tramp's Glasgow of Curry celebrates five years of continuous spicy operation, incorporating almost 50 legendary outings and countless weekly updates. A lot has happened since that first fateful visit to the Indian Orchard in Partick, and we've got a series of typically self-congratulatory posts lined up for November before a very special Curry Club outing to mark the occasion. First up, the Tramps wanted to ask their highly dedicated team of Foreign Curryspondents to offer up their thoughts and opinions on five years of TATTGOC. What must it be like to sort of be part of the brotherhood, but rarely able to enjoy the actual outings (like Schrödinger's Chaat)? Their views might surprise and arouse you ...
Enjoy, and we'll be back next Thursday with more TATTGOC 2008-2013 celebrations.
Notable Curryspondence: That vindaloo in La Paz
I’m surely not the only Foreign Curryspondent who believed the emotional fallout from his departure from Glasgow was a key driving force in the foundation of TATTGOC. “Look at them! See how they struggle without me!” is more or less what I thought in late 2008 as I paraded myself around in Dubai during the early days of my new life in the sun.
I had left the grey drudgery of Glasgow behind; where once I had staggered home with tikka-tinged lips, now I nodded appreciatively when someone handed me another oyster at a cocktail party. This is living, I kept telling myself as I urgently sought evidence of the rightness of my decision to leave Scotland behind. Mercifully, this abominable wanker attitude didn’t last long.
Within a few months, I no longer regarded TATTGOC with pity. Looking at the unfocused pictures of grinning, usually bearded faces in the gloom of curry houses around Glasgow, the whole thing didn’t seem dumb. In fact, if I looked close enough and held on tight through Trampy’s rampant verbosity, it seemed like people were having a great time. Better, even, than when I was on the scene.
That was around four years ago, and while I have seen and done some fairly extraordinary things in that time, I cannot suppress growing feelings of envy. No matter how far I travel or how high I climb, no matter who I meet or where I eat, there is always a lingering sense somewhere in the back of my bulbous cranium that on certain nights in Glasgow, I’m badly missing out.
If anything, my work as a Foreign Curryspondent has been a fairly desperate attempt to stay in touch with something that, for now, remains infuriatingly out of reach. TATTGOC has become the holographic Al to my Dr Sam Beckett – a link to another world and the monthly outings leave me hoping each time that my next leap will be the leap home.
Lord of the Dhansak
Notable Curryspondence: The stars align in Bath (2009)
Since taking up the post of foreign curryspondent for the Tramps' esteemed blog, oh, more years ago than I care to count, my reviewing career has been full of memorable incidents. In Goa, there was the battle with the street performer's monkey over who would get to eay my garlic naan: I won in the end, of course, but the wee blighter was annoyingly tenacious. There was the flirtatious waitress in Bangkok who turned out better equipped than I expected: I was livid at the time, but now I can look back on it and laugh, or at least force a sort of grimace.
And a few occasions when, finding myself a tad short of the local currency to cover a ludicrously inflated bill, I opted to fling the readies at a passing tuk-tuk or taxi driver to make a quick getaway: a tactic that only failed me that time the cabbie turned out to be the chef's cousin. Don't waste your time searching the curryspondence archives for these stories, though, as all too often my prose has proved too spicy for the Tramps' tastes and my words have ended up on the editor's spike. (Not entirely true. The only paperwork that Dhansak filed from Goa or Bankgkok were expenses claims, not review copy. And he has always claimed to have paid his restaurant bills in full. – The Tramps)
If you run into me in some tatty hotel bar at some point, I'll be happy to tell you the anecdotes in full, plus some others – even more hair-raising – that won't see print until my memoirs are published. Still, they're good lads on the whole, although one could wish that they were less tardy in honouring expense claims. (We have explained to Dhansak on more than one occasion that TATTGOC never has and never will pay expenses. – The Tramps) They've gathered a fine community of curry enthusiasts, at home and around the world.
And although the camaraderie of the Glasgow outings sounds braw, I wouldn't swap it for the exciting life of the intrepid curryspondent, ever ready to dive into some misbegotten attempt at a curryhouse in a far-flung city, putting my tastebuds (and backside) on the line to bring you the truth about the curry experience around the globe. Or, er, in Bath. For giving me the chance to participate in this noble endeavour, TATTGOC, I salute you.
(PS I did ask my reviewing partner the Thali Ho if she wanted to add any reminiscences of her own, but after reading my contribution she just rolled her eyes and shook her head.)
Notable Curryspondence: Brickin' it in NYC (2010)
When I lived in Glasgow, in the last days of the 20th century, I didn’t really think of it as a great curry city, even though I was sharing a flat with Trampy at the time. This was long before he had been crowned a Curry Lover of the Year, and for the most part, we stuck to the same old reliables on Gibson Street and in the city centre. As long as it was cheap, spicy and bring your own, that was fine by us.
If someone had asked me where to get a great curry in Britain, I would have said Bradford or Birmingham, in complete ignorance. TATTGOC has been a revelation and a reason to kick myself for missing out. It’s made me angry that most curryhouses in New York are so bland, greasy and uninspiring. On a couple of occasions, it’s made me seek out something better here. In fact, it’s making me want to eat a Lamb Madras right now.
As a foreign curryspondent, my personal holy grail is to eat at an Indian restaurant in Rio de Janeiro. For the time being, at least, there isn’t one. I’ve been visiting regularly for the last eight years and for one reason or another have never managed to get to the city’s one curryhouse, an establishment that’s been open in Botafogo since the 1980s, put off by the bad reviews and astronomical prices (in this, it’s not unusual – eating out anywhere in Rio is painfully expensive). When I finally resolved to go this April, to write about it for the blog, I discovered it had closed down.
Congratulations to the Tramps on five years of ceaseless exploration. When Glasgow finally reclaims the title of Curry Capital in 2014, I will raise a Kingfisher, wherever I am.
Notable Curryspondence: The first ever, from Kanazawa, Japan (2009)
In the years since, I have become the ghost at every feast, watching from a great distance as the regular membership eats its way through curryhouses old and new in the city that I love. On occasion, I am permitted to write dispatches from generally inferior Indian restaurants in various remote global outposts, though this only tends to emphasise my isolation. And on those rare occasions when I return home, I find my former brothers a little aloof, and always ready to remind me that I eat only by their leave.
The four official TATTGOC meals that I have attended were each a live demonstration of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle – if the very act of observing something somehow changes it, then how am I to know that Curry Club is not a profoundly different affair whenever I am not present? How can I be sure that the food is not hotter, the hooting more ribald, the whole experience somehow more “authentic” when I am not a guest? These are the thoughts that trouble me even while I break naan bread with those pricks.
I am forced to concede, however, that Curry Club has proved more enduring and inspiring than anyone would have expected – a polestar over distant Glasgow. Once a month, on the appointed Thursday night, I turn from wherever I’m standing to face that personal Mecca and raise two fingers in tribute to Trampy and The Tramp. Then I turn and walk on, as the wind dries my tears and wipes away my footprints.
SOME OTHER LEGENDARY FOREIGN CURRYSPONDENCE